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Released March 13, 2003


HATTIESBURG - The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Theatre and Dance will present Donald Margulies' Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "Dinner with Friends" March 27-30 in the Gilbert F. Hartwig Theatre.

Josh Martin, second-year graduate student and director of the show, explained "Dinner with Friends" is "about four best friends who are forced to tear down their personal facades to discover who their true friends really are."

Gabe, Karen, Beth and Tom are best friends. When the play opens, Gabe and Karen are having Beth and her children over for dinner while Tom is out of town. After dinner, Beth breaks down and admits that Tom is leaving her for another woman.

As the couples react to the changes in their lives, so do the audience members, perhaps through association. Margulies is an acute observer of the complexities of contemporary relationships through his story. He makes the experience personal for everyone through humor, compassion and understanding.

"Dinner with Friends" is not just a "divorce play." It is more subtle than that. While it may be one couple's marriage that is breaking apart, the repercussions are at least as significant and long lasting to the other couple.

"You know, I think it's really about the aftershocks that we all experience when certain constants in our lives, things that we perceive to be constant, suddenly shatter and are no longer dependable," Margulies said in an interview for PBS' "The News Hour." "It touches people, it upsets people, it discomforts people...it also touches a nerve, and I think that's one of the reasons why it has had the success that it has had."

Margulies grew up going to the theater during his childhood in Brooklyn. He attended SUNY-Purchase, where he studied as a collage artist and began writing on the side. Interested in small details and intimate relationships, Margulies looks at collage as a format for writing plays. He's been awarded the Sidney Kingsley Award and several Obie awards for his writing. He has twice been nominated for Pulitzers (1992's "Sight Unseen" and 1997's "Collected Stories") before winning for "Dinner with Friends" in 2000.

The play also was awarded the Dramatist's Guild Hull-Warriner Award, the Outer Critic's Circle Award and the Lucille Lortel Award. In addition to his work for the theater, Margulies has written numerous screenplays, adapted his own work for the screen and regularly contributed to television shows such as ABC's "Once and Again." Margulies now is working on "God of Vengeance," based on Sholem Asch's 1906 Yiddish classic. He teaches playwriting at Yale University.

The student cast at Southern Miss features graduate students Christy Parr of Leonardo, N.J., and Rasheeda Moore of Charlotte, N.C., senior Joey Watkins of Petal, and sophomore Isaac Gardner of Starkville.

The design team includes graduate students Lisa Kappel on sets, Phillip Bryan on costumes, Laura Happel on lighting and theater faculty member Brian Hapcic on sound. The show will feature two matinees March 29 and 30 at 2 p.m. Evening shows March 27-29 begin at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for Southern Miss faculty and staff and senior citizens, and $6 for students. For tickets, call the Southern Miss Ticket Office at (601) 266-5418 or 1-800-844-8425. Order online at www.tickets.usm.edu. Material may not be suitable for all audiences.



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July 16, 2003 9:09 AM